Poultry and other captive birds will be allowed to roam free after spending the last five months housed.

The Chief Veterinary Officer has announced the mandatory housing measures in place for poultry and captive birds in England and Wales will be lifted from 00.01am on Tuesday (April 18).

The compulsory housing order was introduced across England on November 7, 2022 to help stop the spread of bird flu.

The government says that this decision has been taken after ongoing monitoring using the latest scientific evidence and a robust risk assessment.

It has reduced the risk level of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 in poultry and other captive birds from high to medium with poor biosecurity and low where good biosecurity is applied.

While birds can be kept outside from Tuesday - unless they are in a protection zone or captive bird monitoring controlled zone - the highest standards of biosecurity remain essential.

The decision means that from Tuesday, eggs laid by hens with access to outside range areas can return to being marketed as ‘Free-Range’ eggs.

The risk in wild birds in Great Britain remains assessed as high.

Bird keepers that intend to allow their birds outside are advised to use the upcoming days to prepare their outside areas for the release of their birds, since the areas may be contaminated by wild birds.

The virus that causes bird flu can stay infectious in faeces, carcases and feathers for around 50 days. It can stay infectious for even longer in wet conditions and standing water.

Therefore, bird owners should clean and disinfect hard surfaces, fence off ponds or standing water and reintroduce wild bird deterrents.